With 'Iron Man 3' on the way we take stock of his best work
10. "The Singing Detective"
The year: 2003
The role: Delusional, hospitalized pulp novelist Dan Dark
The reason it’s on the list: This selection isn’t intended as an endorsement of the film, an ambitious but tonally botched Americanization of Dennis Potter’s brilliant BBC serial about a psoriasis-afflicted writer whose chronic pain turns to film noir hallucinations peppered with doo-wop musical numbers. The jagged, affected film doesn’t get many things right, but casting Downey was one of them: an inspired substitute for Michael Gambon, he glides coolly between the story’s various suspended realities, balancing the debonair, fleet-footed panache of Dark’s imagined noir self with the pain-racked torment of his waking life. It’s difficult to imagine many of his movie star peers pulling it off.
- Guy Lodge